What does it mean to have courage and lead with a courageous heart? Like so many words, courage has more than one meaning and has evolved over time. The original meaning of the word, it comes from the Latin ‘cor’ and means heart. In it’s earliest form, being courageous meant to tell your story and speak your mind with your whole heart. That’s a much richer meaning of the word courage than what it has evolved into. The evolution of the word courage has more to do with bravery. While being brave is a precursor and certainly part of the story, it leaves out the wholehearted aspect of it and it lesser for it. If you imagine an artist with a limited colour palette and bring that analogy to bravery and courage, you’ll understand what I mean.

Be brave, show courage.

Courage has nothing to do with playing it safe.

How often do you think something that differs to what is being said around you, by others and squash it before you open your mouth? How often do you play it safe over voicing what you really think? What do you do when this conflicts with your values? These are all instances when it takes being courageous to open your mouth, take a risk and say something that might land you in hot water or make you look bad in front of your peers or worse, your boss.

Before you can lead anyone, you must first lead yourself.

A good leader is a good follower. If you are leading yourself, it takes following your values, your heart and your principles. That has nothing to do with playing it safe and everything to do with taking a risk. You do that because you have something at stake.

There is always a price. What price are you willing to pay?

We all want things, have goals, desires and plans be they personal or professional. Simply wanting something won’t cut it. You have to take action to make plans a reality and to accomplish our goals. We tell ourselves stories around what is possible and what’s not, and we spend most of our time talking ourselves out of taking risks, and we settle for less. Calling on ourselves to be brave and summon our courage will only really happen if we are willing to take a risk for something we deem worthwhile.

You will never achieve if you’re not willing: Without courage, you will never get yourself to a place of being willing. There is a price for being unwilling, and there’s a price for being willing.

It comes down to which price you pay.

That’s a choice, and it has a lot to do with how you choose to focus your attention. Are you focused on your potential gain or what you’re going to lose? Is your focus on what other’s might think and their expectations,? Or, is your focus on living up to your values and ideas; speaking your mind with your whole heart? Often what we do is over-estimate the risks and downplay the upside. Essentially, all the “What If’s” come into play and we catastrophise. All the while, discrediting our ability to manage the risks, and we minimise the impact of inaction.

If we take an honest look at ourselves, we can see through our own BS. It takes calling yourself out. Seek clarity and understanding by asking yourself questions. It’s a pretty good way of gauging where you’re at and getting leverage over yourself. A way to get willing!

What would I do now if I were being courageous?

What is your call to action? Chances are the answer to that question will give you some actions that you aren’t currently in touch with because fears and concerns are driving; comfortable in your discomfort. The truth of the matter is you are already uncomfortable, you can either summon the courage, take the appropriate action and rip off the band-aid. Or, you can prolong the agony, which is what most of us do and run the risk of living with regret.

Not that regret is all bad. It can be a compelling reminder in the future when faced with another similar situation. I recall when I was at University and still figuring out what I wanted to do when I grew up, I use to work for a restaurant chain. I remember the company was hiring trainee managers internally. All I had to do was open my mouth and make my interest known to the District Manager whom I was friendly with. That same person a few years later became my business partner. Years later, she told me if I had asked for the position, she would have given it to me.

She was wondering what got in my way…

The reason I said nothing was I had heard the internal HR guy was homophobic and so, I didn’t even bother. I decided he wouldn’t hire me. I was shot before I even started through my own lack of courage. My unwillingness to be vulnerable and expose myself, that took me out of what was a sure bet. I have shared that story many times and staying present to that regret has since served me well.

Courage is contagious. A critical mass of brave leaders is the foundation of an intentionally courageous culture. Every time we are brave with our lives, we make the people around us a little braver and our organizations bolder and stronger.

Brene Brown